KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- So now everyone knows what Michel Platini does not want: He does not want Sepp Blatter to remain “omnipresent and omnipotent” – the Frenchman’s words – at the head of world football.
Platini, in explaining his preference for the presidency of European federation UEFA rather than that of FIFA, also set out what he did expect from the world governing body of which he is a vice-president within an executive committee whose members behaved too often “like sheep.”
He said: “We all want a FIFA that works better, with more transparency, a FIFA that is more cohesive and is more respected by those who love football and I will do all I can to contribute to that.”
Platini believes he has helped as much as he can but will go no further. He recalled: “I helped the president of FIFA [at his elections] in 1998 and 2002 and 2007 and in 2011 the president asked us to come and support him one last time.
Fresh air needed
“Mr Blatter has started a process to reform FIFA. We have all supported him in that process. I like him and respect him and I have supported him for a long time but I have looked him in the eye and said: ‘Listen, Sepp, I think you shouldn’t run again. You asked us for support for one last time.’ So he knows clearly that I will not support him again and that I think we need some fresh air.”
Platini even suggested that Blatter’s conversion to the cause of technological assistance was merely a populist communications tactic and that “deep down he is against all that.”
Vehemently he denied sticking with UEFA only because in a straight fight with Blatter he would be the loser. He repeated his earlier assertion: “I can beat Mr Blatter.” However the final nail in the mental coffin of his immediate ambition must have been witnessing events in Sao Paulo on the eve of FIFA Congress before the World Cup.
Blatter danced triumphantly from one confederation conference to another. Only Europe greeted him “more disrespectfully than I have ever known”. Apart from grumpy UEFA Platini would have seen that the confederation odds were stacked 5-1 in Blatter’s favour.
So if that fresh air is not to be whistled up by Platini then who is the man (or woman) to do it?
Platini has no idea, professing ignorance of whether one of his UEFA colleagues might run and offering only: “I will support whoever will bring something new for world football. If there’s someone then we will hear him out and see what the federations around the world decide.
“Maybe there will be better candidates from within Europe or other parts of the world who will run. I think people waited for me to set out my position before deciding.”
No Champagne moment
Platini has no time for the declared candidacy of his fellow Frenchman Jerome Champagne who was an aide to Blatter for 11 years within FIFA before being ousted in January 2010. Witheringly, Platini observed: “I don’t think there is much interest there.”
Platini knows very well that he was the only individual who could have mounted a realistic challenge to Blatter for whom the path has now been cleared to virtually certain re-enthronement in Zurich next May.
In that case Platini’s fallback position is the hope that he and the other members of the FIFA executive committee will raise a more aggressive resistance to Blatter’s command, a sort of fifth column within the FIFA football family.
“The members of the executive committee of FIFA need to become a counter-balance to the administration and to the president of FIFA to change things and not be to be like sheep who always say ‘Yes’. We need to play a stronger role and create discussions to change things. Not to let Mr Blatter be omnipresent and omnipotent.
“We need to work more togethr as a team because there are many topics [whose control] should be given to the confederations. FIFA should work closer with the confederations on many things.
“The executive committee should be braver in the face of some decisions by Mr Blatter but maybe that will come.”
In the meantime Platini has not ruled out tilting at the FIFA presidential windmill one day, meaning 2019.
He said: “For many years my friends in the English press have asked ask me if i will run in 2015. Give me some months to take a breath then we will come back in the future. We have time . . . I am not closing the door to FIFA down the road.”